The St. Louis County Board unanimously approved a plan Tuesday for the distribution of the approximately $24.5 million in federal CARES Act funds that the county received. The plan calls for $6 million to be allocated for small business assistance, $6 million for community assistance, $1.25 million for the logging industry, $10 million to cover costs the county has incurred while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and $255,000 for cities and townships with populations under 200 people. An additional $1 million will be held in reserve to be distributed later in the fall based on analysis of need.
With the plan now approved, the goal is to move quickly to distribute the funds to help people and businesses hard hit by the economic toll of the pandemic.
For small businesses interested in applying for assistance, application information will be on the county’s website by next week, along with details on informational webinars that will be held to provide guidance on eligibility rules and the application process. Money from the Small Business Relief Fund will be allocated in two phases.
Phase 1 begins August 24 and will focus on businesses and non-profits with 25 or fewer full time employees. These businesses may apply for assistance equivalent to $1,000 per employee, for COVID-related expenses incurred by the business such as to purchase PPE, cleaning supplies, signage and safety barriers.
Phase 2 will provide emergency grant assistance of up to $50,000 to businesses and non-profits with 100 or fewer full time employees for COVID-related expenses. This phase will begin September 7.
Meanwhile the Community Assistance Program funds will be allocated to organizations that serve populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and support people in priority settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community based services, mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services, and those that provide services to individuals connected to housing programs.
Organizations may apply for assistance for necessary COVID-19 expenditures incurred, such as PPE, physical modifications and additional staffing. Organizations also can apply for service expansion and related programmatic expenses (incurred or proposed) related to COVID-19 such as increasing food access, food shelves, meal delivery and mask distribution for community members. Limited gap funding is also being directed towards individuals and families with COVID related emergencies.
To ensure equity and access for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, CARES dollars will be vetted and prioritized to fill the gaps that remain for organizations and individuals and families where other funding streams have been inadequate.
The application process for the Community Assistance Program will launch in late August. County staff plan to offer virtual information sessions to assist organizations with the proposal process.